Hiking with a Survival Knife: What You Need to Know


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Hiking requires a lot of physical stamina as well as quite a few pieces of gear. Packing a survival knife for your next hiking trip is a good idea because there are many times where it will come in handy and maybe even save your life. Personally, I would never go hiking or outdoors without my knife, it’s just too useful!

Having a survival knife with you when you are out hiking can have many benefits and uses. A good hiking knife should be sturdy and durable while also being light. Having a heavy knife on you while you hike will usually cause more problems than it solves, so a lightweight knife is the best way to go.

Many people understand that a knife can be very useful on a hiking expedition, but do not understand what knife will serve them best during their hike. Because of this, many people wander out hiking with a knife that is way too heavy and big and will most likely cause more problems than it solves. Don’t let that be you.

What to Look for in a Good Hiking Knife

There are thousands upon thousands of knives out there and a fair amount of them touting themselves as “hiking knives”. However, don’t just trust a company’s marketing department to tell you what knife is good for hiking.

There are many traits and qualities that almost all survival knives that are good for hiking have. Below I will walk you through the different things to look for in a survival knife so that it will fit your needs and work won’t weigh you down on a hike. 

General Traits

One of the main traits that you want to look for in a survival knife that you plan to take with you on the trail is it being lightweight. I cannot tell you how important it is to find a knife that is lightweight and won’t weigh you down when you hike.

There is simply no point in having a knife with you that weighs multiple pounds when there are knives that weigh a fraction of that and can complete the same tasks.

Another thing that many people overlook is the fact that all hiking knives should be as practical as possible. It is useless to take a fancy and cool looking knife hiking just for the sake of being fancy and cool. So many people do this and it ends up making them not look cool and fancy because their knife can’t do the tasks that it needs to.

Overall, a survival knife that you intend to take hiking with you should be light and practical. Carrying and using it will be so much more pleasant and easy if you just follow those two simple rules when picking a knife to take hiking with you.

Knife Blade

As I mentioned before, a survival knife that you intend to take with you on a hike should be lightweight. A good portion of the weight of a knife is in the blade, so be sure to choose lighter steel.

However, there is such a thing as too light of a blade. If the blade becomes too light, often it loses a lot of its strength and durability and will be next to useless when you need it. It’s often a fine line, but it is important to choose a knife blade that is lightweight while at the same time very durable, able to hold an edge, and able to withstand a beating.

The next thing to think about in regards to the knife blade is the spine of the blade. For hiking, you are going to want a good portion of the spine where you can strike a Ferro rod to make a fire.

It is also a good thing for a hiking knife to have a full tang. This will give you that added strength when you need it and will give you some peace of mind knowing that your knife is super solid and won’t snap very easily. It will also make it possible for you to easily baton wood and do more intensive tasks with your knife.

Knife Handle

Arguably one of the most important parts of a good survival knife, the handle needs to be super durable, solid, and comfortable to hold and use. It is no fun when there is a super big hotspot on your handle that just makes using your knife a complete pain.

Just save yourself the trouble and pain and make sure the handle of the survival knife that you are taking hiking, or really anywhere, is easy to hold and doesn’t have any big hotspots that will make it unbearable.

Another thing to definitely avoid when it comes to survival knife handles is the classic hollow handled knife. A hollow handle will make it impossible for the knife to be full tang and it just isn’t ideal for a survival knife. 

The overall structural integrity of the knife is jeopardized and you don’t want your knife failing in the field because you want to be able to store some microscopic things in the handle of your knife. I mean let’s be real, you can’t fit a whole lot in the handle of a knife and it is definitely not worth having a weaker knife because of the added storage.

Really, make sure the handle of the knife that you will be taking with you hiking is durable, strong, and easy and comfortable to hold.

Why You Should Carry A Knife While Hiking

There are many good reasons why you would want to have a knife on you when you are out on a hike.

Knives are useful to cut cords, help start fires, process firewood, cook, as well as a host of other tasks and uses. Knives are just really useful and versatile tools that can do an unimaginable amount of different things.

Many experienced hikers and outdoorsmen don’t go anywhere without a knife, and there are good reasons for this. In fact, anyone that has ever carried an everyday carry knife on them for about a week can attest to the sometimes strange and random uses that knives have.

On top of the usual uses and things that you think you will need your knife for, there are always those things that just pop up and are able to be fixed using a knife. You never know when you will need it, but the second you leave your knife at home you wish you had it.

Especially when you are hiking, the number of small tasks that you might run into that could simply be solved using a knife is huge. 

Knives also can help give you peace of mind when you are hiking. There are often many unknowns about trails and nature in general, but having a knife on you will give you one more tool to help you handle whatever life throws at you.

Overall, knives are just super useful tools that are very versatile and can complete a lot of different tasks. There really isn’t really a good reason not to take a knife with you on a hike, so you might as well just take one give yourself one more useful tool in your bag.

Uses for a Survival Knife While Hiking

Knives, in general, are super useful tools and can do a wide variety of things, but a survival knife that you take with you hiking can be useful beyond imagining. There are just so many small things that you would otherwise struggle to do but it is super simple if you just have a knife.

Below are just a few of the many possible instances where a knife would come in useful when you are out hiking.

Cutting Rope and Cord

There are many times where you just need to simply cut through a piece of cord or rope, but it is just too hard to break with your bare hands.

This seems to happen a lot when I am out and a simple slash of a knife solves the problem that I would otherwise spend a long time figuring out how to solve. It’s the simple and seemingly easy things that make carrying a knife so useful and worth it.

Food Preparation and Cooking

Whether you are slicing some meat to smoke on the campfire or spreading some butter on a piece of toast, a knife is an invaluable tool to have when you are cooking and preparing food.

I see many people bring two knives with them when they go hiking, one for cooking and one for other tasks. And while this is all well and good, a survival knife can do the tasks of both of those knives with a good cleaning in between. You can get the same amount of work done and only carry half of the weight.

Wood Carving

Being able to do some light carving while out on a hike can not only provide some enjoyment but can help you solve some of the problems that many people often face.

With a good and sturdy survival knife, you are able to carve some things out of wood that you either forgot to pack or would make your time out in nature a little more pleasant. For example, you could carve tent stakes, walking sticks, or simple utensils out of wood if you needed to.

Fire Starting

Fire is one of the most important things to have if you are on a hike and going to be spending the night. With a knife, making a fire becomes a whole lot simpler than if you didn’t have one at all.

If you are able to and want to test your skills, a knife can be an excellent tool to help you put together a bow drill kit or some other primitive fire method. If you prefer a simpler and easier method of making fire, the spine of many survival knives is the perfect place to strike a Ferro rod.

Or you could just pack some matches or a lighter. I’m just kidding. Even if you have a lighter, a knife can help you make a fire in the off chance that it doesn’t work or breaks.

Firewood Processing

If you are out hiking and want to make a campfire, not only can a knife assist in making the actual fire but it is also very useful for processing firewood.

While you obviously can’t split huge logs, many well-made survival knives are pretty good at batoning small to medium sticks. You can also use a survival knife to make a feather stick or small tinder to help you get your fire from a spark to a roaring flame.

Self Protection

While it doesn’t happen as often as you might think, having a knife with you for self-protection can sometimes come in really handy.

A good survival knife in your bag or on your belt when you are out hiking can give you a measure of security and peace of mind because you have a knife to rely on if you ever need it. Many places in the world have large animals that you might need to protect yourself from on the very rare occasion while you are on a hike.

Opening Packages

Many hikers like to pack prepackaged food that comes in plastic bags for their meals while they are out hiking. A knife can become very useful when you just want to quickly open a package.

This is not only limited to food because there are many instances where you might need to open something while you are out hiking. Having a knife on you will eliminate the frustrating moment when you realize you just can’t easily get into whatever it is that is in a package or plastic bag. 

Other

Obviously I can’t think of everything that a survival knife will be able to do for you while you are out hiking. They are just so useful and versatile that they can practically do almost anything and come in useful at the most unexpected moments.

There are probably a million and one different ways that you can use a good survival knife when you are out on a hike. You really don’t know how much you need it until you come up against a task that could be easily solved using your knife.

What Survival Knife is Best for Hiking?

There are a lot of different knives out there and many of them are really good blades. But for hiking, you need a really specific knife with certain qualities and traits. As I talked about at the beginning of this article, a good survival knife that you plan to take with you on a hike should be lightweight, durable, and easy to use. 

While you can sometimes get away with it and use a knife that has only some of these qualities, a knife that has all of them will be a lot easier to use and carry and will work perfectly for your needs as a hiker.

Best Knife for Hiking (my personal favorite)

One of my favorite knives in general, but also is an amazing hiking knife, is the KA-BAR BK16 Becker.

Overall this is just a really solid, full tang knife that is also very light and durable. It can take a hit but isn’t so big and heavy that it is too much to just throw into your bag for a hike.

The blade of the BK16 is super durable and made of good steel. It is a full tang knife so that it can handle some of the more intensive tasks that you might need it to do like firewood processing and batoning.

The handle is also very ergonomic and comfortable to hold. The one downside to the handle on the BK16 is that it is smooth and doesn’t have any texture for grip. While some people don’t like that about the BK16, it is the only downside to this knife that I can see and is a small sacrifice for the terrific knife you are getting.

Overall, the KA-BAR BK16 Becker is a really great survival knife for anyone that is wanting a knife that they can take with them on a hike. 

It really checks all the boxes of a good hiking knife. It is very solid and durable, lightweight, full tang, and everything else that makes up a good hiking survival knife.

Conclusion

The next time you go out on a hike, I highly recommend you take a good survival knife with you. A good, solid knife has so many uses when you are out hiking and it comes in handy at the least expected moments.

Just make sure the knife that you go out with has all of the qualities of a good hiking survival knife. Otherwise, it could slow you down and cause more problems than it is able to fix. 

There are just a lot of benefits to having a knife with you when you are out on a hike. There are options, like the BK16, that are super light and durable and will help you complete tasks and make your hike a little bit more pleasant and enjoyable.

Townsen Bell

I'm the founder and primary author at Knife Manual. Over many years, I have become proficient at survival and bushcraft skills through lots of practice and many great teachers. I enjoy spending time outdoors, collecting knives, and learning new skills.

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